The Stages of the Disability Application Process

While many who are initially denied benefits should appeal, the appeals process is often difficult and time consuming. If you have not previously sought the assistance of a Chicago Social Security disability attorney, it is strongly advised you do so when you seek appeal. There are five stages of the disability application process:

  1. The initial application;
  2. Reconsideration level;
  3. Hearing level;
  4. Appeals council;
  5. Federal court.

Initial Application

During this stage, the applicant will complete their initial application for Social Security disability benefits either by applying online, by telephone, or in person with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  After submitting a completed application, the SSA will evaluate the claim to determine whether or not the applicant qualifies for benefits.   More than half of applications are denied during this stage of the process.  However, if an applicant is unsuccessful during this stage of the process, it does not mean that their claim is invalid or that they will never receive disability benefits.  Many applicants who have had their initial claim for benefits denied have gone on to receive disability benefits during one of the four other stages of the application process.

Reconsideration Level

Applicants whose initial application for Social Security disability benefits is denied have the option of requesting that the SSA to reconsider their application.  Applicants who choose to proceed to the reconsideration level must file a request within 60 days of receiving the initial denial from SSA.   Prior to filing a request for reconsideration, it is helpful to have a Chicago Social Security disability attorney review a previous denial to determine whether or not the denial was properly made.   Applicants who proceed to this stage of the application process wait an average of 90 days to receive another decision.

Hearing Level

Applicants whose applications are still denied after the reconsideration level have the option of requesting a hearing.   The applicant will be given an opportunity to present their case before a judge.  Applicants who choose to retain a Chicago Social Security disability attorney have a much higher rate of success during this stage than applicants who choose to represent themselves.

Appeals Council

Applicants who are denied at the hearing level can file an appeal requesting for their case to be heard before an appeals council.  The applicant will be given an opportunity to present their case before the Appeals Council which will then determine whether or not the ALJ’s decision was properly made.  The Appeals Council takes on average 220 days to  be issued a subsequent determination.

Federal Court

If the Appeals Council denies an applicant’s disability claim, then the applicant has the option of filing an appeal in federal court.  Most cases heard at this level are either denied or simply sent back to the hearing level.   It can take well over a year for applicants to receive a federal court decision; as appellate cases the parties files briefs and my have oral argument before the District Court judge issues an written Opinion.  This is why it is recommended that applicants do everything possible to receive a successful determination prior to this stage of the application process.   Applicants who choose to retain an experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney during the beginning of the application process have a much higher rate of success and are usually successful much earlier in the process than applicants who choose to represent themselves. Most attorneys do not handle appellate cases and non-attorenys are not licensed to, therefore having an experinced disablity attorney who also handles case at the court level of appel enahnces continutiyt and the greater the chance of retaining experineced appeallate counsel in the event that the ALJ does t issue a fully favorable decision.

Contact Us

If you are considering filing for Social Security disability benefits or if your claim has previously been denied, contact a Chicago Social Security disability attorney at Daley Disability Law at 1-312-561-3030.